Retailers shift mobile focus from sales to enrichment

E-commerce giants like Amazon and eBay may be getting all the plaudits for mobile sales, but new research indicates that brick-and-mortar retailers are getting savvier about leveraging mobile not only for digital sales, but for in-store sales as well.

ComScore's "2015 U.S Digital Future in Focus" study found that mobile now accounts for 60 percent of digital retail engagement, but only 13 percent of sales. That has led some people to believe traditional retailers are trailing e-commerce in leveraging mobile, but the report also indicates that apps like Walmart's Savings Catcher have become "must-haves" for many shoppers.

The emphasis on engagement over sales indicates a shift in the way retailers are approaching mobile. Rather than trying to force the sale with apps, stores are using them more as a means of supplementing the in-store experience. And if shoppers decide to make a purchase via the app on another occasion, all the better.

Walmart's Savings Catcher is a perfect example. Customers are able to scan a barcode on their receipt and compare prices they paid against competitors. If the app identifies a lower price somewhere, Walmart will pay the difference. As such, it acts as a kind of multipurpose ad hoc loyalty program. Shoppers have a clear incentive to come back and choose Walmart over another retailer, and Walmart can collect information on purchase habits that could be used to target future offers.

And, of course, as shoppers grow more comfortable with mobile, pure e-commerce sales are expected to grow as well.

"As friction gets removed from the mobile purchase process, gains in sales can be expected to accelerate," the comScore report said.

Some retailers are already learning to make mobile work for online sales through the in-store experience. Dick's Sporting Goods recently announced that it has seen success implementing a mobile strategy for store associates, allowing them to find products online for shoppers if what they're looking for is out of stock or unavailable in a specific store. That "endless aisle" approach helped boost digital sales by more than 2 percent in the fourth quarter, and improve them by 50 percent near brick-and-mortar locations.

For more:
-See this comScore study
-See this PracticalEcommerce story

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